Organic Amendments and Fertilizer SpreadersJuan Aldaz
Farmers around the world have always known the benefits of manures, composts, leaf and yard waste; and other bulky organic materials, and the fertilizer spreaders to deliver them. With more emphasis on sustainability and recycling; reducing the use of costly chemical fertilizers, and managing the organic fraction of the soil better; advancements in the ‘science’ of it all have kept pace to assist farmers while equipment technology also has become more precise for field and operating efficiency.
Sources of Bulky Organics:
Fresh Animal Manures – small and medium-size farms where storage opportunities are limited rely on spreading their fresh manure frequently. Daily spreading was once the most common method and still is a very often used system, particularly on dairy farms using stanchion or tie stalls to house their cattle. In these systems, the most common form of fertilizer spreaders is the beater spreader; but they are not as precise, and are designed to spread quickly. As a result, the rate of application is high, and the spread pattern limited; leading to nutrient accumulation in the soil beyond what the crop system needs and subjecting the system to environmental loss from runoff and leaching of nutrients (primarily phosphorus runoff, and nitrogen leaching).
Bedded Manure Storages – farmers who use a lot of bedding and some sources which are not too high in moisture will static pile their manure for spreading when soil conditions are dry enough, or at times of the year more practical for their situation. During the time that bedded manure is stored, it undergoes biological, chemical, and physical breakdown. This ‘shrink’ changes the density and relative nutrient content of the manure in different ways. Density is increased, phosphorus and other relatively insoluble elements accumulate in higher concentrations; nitrogen is converted to nitrate; and the carbon in the manure and bedding is converted, tied up as related compounds, or digested by microbes. The result is a material that has been partially or completely composted, depending on factors like turning the pile, age of the pile, and condition of the originating manure. If spread at the same rate as you’d spread fresh manure, nutrient loading is increased. This is great for infertile fields that need carbon, phosphorus, and other relatively insoluble elements are short; but it is wasteful and pollutive on fields that have these elements in excessive concentrations.
Composts – composting has gained momentum in recent decades. If you conscientiously become ‘involved’ in the breakdown of organic wastes, whether turning often, covering, mixing different sources of waste in a precise manner, separating manure solids, or many of the other ways to ‘manage’ waste; your end product has a different makeup. It’s usually of higher quality nutrient wise, has lower populations of anaerobic and toxic bacteria, and a lower weed content. In order to get there, you’ve invested time and money; and hence, need to receive some return; whether agronomically or economically. Spreader technology for this type of material is in high demand these days. Farmers who are growing using ‘organic’ systems have a high demand.
Types of Fertilizer Spreaders
The type of spreader is usually designed for its intended use and can be categorized as dry, semi-solid, and liquid. The precision and placement of the material varies with the engineering used to build it.
By: John Deibel
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